Foods you should never buy at Walmart

With the introduction of the first "Walmart Supercenter" way back in 1988, those giant superstores that sell groceries in addition to everything else on the planet, Walmart forever changed the way Americans buy food. In just 30 years, Americans transitioned from visiting produce and farm stands, independent retailers, or even the supermarket for their grocery needs, to shopping for food at Walmart. In fact, grocery sales now account for over half of Walmart's total annual sales, totaling $200 billion each year. Factor in sales from Sam's Club, Walmart's warehouse club sister store, and that makes the company the largest retailer of groceries in the country.

While the low "rollback" prices and product exclusives sometimes make it tempting to get your Swiffer refills, picture hanging kits, pressboard furniture, tube socks, printer cartridges, paper towels, firearms, and fresh cantaloupe all in one place, not every item that lines the grocery section of your local Walmart is worth the trip. Here, we take a closer look at the 12 foods you should never buy at Walmart.

You can find much cheaper organic produce elsewhere

Sales of organic products drive more than $40 billion dollars in sales each year in the grocery shopping industry. Never content to let $40 billion sit on the table, Walmart has been capitalizing on this trend, and increasing the availability of organic (and sometimes even locally grown) produce in their Supercenters.

Assuming you're one of those people that buys organic products because you don't like eating pesticides, antibiotics, and synthetic hormones, and not because it gives you a thrill to pay $4 dollars for an onion, you're probably always on the hunt for inexpensive organic produce. According to Kiplinger, however, you're unlikely to find those savings at Walmart. In fact, Kiplinger found that rival stores Aldi and Trader Joe's consistently beat Walmart's prices on organic fruits and vegetables. That means that until Walmart begins aggressively rolling back prices on celery and carrots at the same rate as everything else in the store, you're better off buying organic somewhere else.

Actually, you can probably get better produce in general elsewhere

When it comes to buying fresh fruits and vegetables, sometimes just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Sure, it may be convenient to lump your grocery shopping in with all the other stuff you have to buy every weekend, but the produce at Walmart is generally not quite up to snuff.

According to Consumer Reports, Walmart consistently ranks toward the bottom of their listing of supermarket chains in terms of "quality of fresh foods and vegetables, meats, [and] store-prepared foods and baked goods." Out of 68 supermarkets evaluated by Consumer Reports, Walmart falls at #67. Ooph.

Why no love for Walmart produce? Staffing shortages are a big part of Walmart's produce problem. When stores are understaffed, Walmart will pull associates from other departments to work in produce, which means that the 16-year-old kid that got hired for his knowledge of Nintendo Switch peripherals is suddenly trying to figure out how to manage 300-500 items that are all slowly dying at different rates. Not exactly a recipe for crunchy romaine.

The chain is trying to fix its produce department with new monitoring technologies and a 100 percent freshness guarantee, but in the meantime, consider buying produce elsewhere.

You can get maple syrup for half the price at Costco

As anyone who has watched their 4-year-old pour $24 worth of maple syrup onto 50 cents worth of pancakes can tell you, those bottles of Grade-A Vermont liquid gold can seriously blow up your food budget. 

Still, if you just can't bring yourself to make the leap to the mass-market flavored corn syrup brands (think Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Butterworth's, Log Cabin or Hungry Jack), you can still find real, tree-tapped, 100 percent natural maple syrup at a reasonable price… provided you don't buy it at Walmart. 

According to The Krazy Koupon Lady, an expert on the best deals available at Costco, the stuff at Walmart is not only lower in quality… it's almost twice as expensive. In some locations, Walmart's non-organic maple syrup costs almost 56 cents per ounce, compared to Costco's 35 cent per ounce Kirkland Signature USDA Organic Grade-A brand. Buy it by the gallon, and keep it in your fridge for up to a year.

Walmart puts a premium price tag on organic milk

Organic milk is always going to be more expensive than conventional milk, simply because it costs the farmers more to produce it. Raising fewer cattle, refusing to feed cows genetically modified feed, and milking them at natural production levels, may produce milk that is healthier and tastes better, but it's not cheap. When farmers have to spend more money to produce their milk, they pass that cost on to you, the customer… and there's not much that even mega chains like Walmart can do to control that.

Unfortunately, organic milk at Walmart still doesn't present the value found in many of its other items. According to Kiplinger, both Aldi and Trader Joe's routinely trounces Walmart in organic milk pricing, costing about 30 cents less per half gallon. 

Sometimes, even fancypants grocery chain Whole Foods manages to undercut Walmart on organic milk prices… and when a place that's nicknamed "Whole Paycheck" beats you on pricing, you've got a serious problem.

Costco sells pure vanilla extract for half the price of Walmart

Whether you're a devoted cookie baker, or you've got an uncle who's trying to hide a substance abuse problem and is just staying with you "until things turn around," you know how expensive it can be to buy large volumes of real vanilla extract. Why is real vanilla extract so expensive? Because making it takes a super long time, and most of it happens far away… like, in Madagascar. There, workers tend to delicate, vine-covered vanilla orchid plants for three-five years, until they produce a seed pod which is then soaked in concentrated alcohol, before being bottled up and shipped to your local Walmart.

Unless you switch to using vanillin for your baking projects, a low-cost synthetic alternative to vanilla extract, there aren't many ways to cut the cost of vanilla. According to The Krazy Koupon Lady, however, you don't have to be stuck with the high-priced extracts at Walmart, and you don't have to resort to using imitation vanilla flavoring. Costco sells 16-ounce bottles of pure vanilla extract (pro tip: 16 ounces is a lot of vanilla extract) for just $2.18 an ounce, versus $4.32 per ounce at Walmart.

The Great Value Big Burly Breakfast Sandwich is the wrong way to start your day

Ah, morning. A crisp dawn breaks, and the day begins to unfold, the promise and hope of a new day rising. It's time to break your overnight fast, with a healthy, energizing dish of fresh fruit, a slice of organic whole-wheat avocado toast, or a protein-fortified wheatgrass smoothie to keep your metabolism firing and your brain operating at its peak.

Barring that, you could also commit an aggravated assault on your central nervous system with the "Big Burly Breakfast Sandwich" from Walmart: a half pound of bacon, fried eggs, and processed American cheese, piled high on twin slices of "Cinnamon Swirl French Toast." Each sandwich packs 26 grams of fat, 1200 milligrams of sodium (more than half of your total recommended daily allowance for the day), and an arterial-hardening 7 grams of saturated fat. That's right. According to the FDA, this one sandwich provides your abused, neglected body with more than half of its total recommended saturated fat per day — and you're only on breakfast.

Walmart's super-cheap imported farmed shrimp comes at a human cost

Raw, cooked, butterflied, tail-on, tail-off, peeled… it's hard to resist buying an enormous bag of shrimp for less than the cost of a package of ground beef. Unfortunately, the shrimp you'll find at Walmart (and other giant retailers) may be inexpensive, but it comes at a bit of an environmental and human cost.

The next time you're tempted by a big bag of EZ-Peel cocktail crustaceans, check the country of origin. According to Natural News, if you're holding a bag of shrimp imported from Thailand, you've got to factor some human rights violations into the cost per pound. Workers (including child laborers) are often treated extremely poorly, and trafficked as just another commodity in the shrimp farming industry. The work is extremely labor-intensive, and prone to abuse by subcontractors overseeing both the fishing itself, and the pre-processing facilities that handle shell and head removal, as well as de-veining.

Shrimp farmed in Central America and Asia is also raised under questionable conditions, and can pose a threat to your health. According to a 2015 study by Consumer Reports of 205 imported shrimp samples, half the samples contained bacteria, and 11 from Vietnam, Thailand, and Bangladesh contained traces of antibiotic residue. Some of these antibiotics pose a cancer risk, while others are illegal for food production use in the United States.

The bottom line? Focus less on the bargain pricing, and make sure you know where your shrimp is coming from.

Great Value brand "Tropickles" are a waking nightmare

There are two things that are true in the universe: Pickles are delicious, and red Kool-Aid is delicious. It stands to reason, then, that pickles brined in sugary fruit punch are also delicious. Right?

We can blame the rise of the infamous "Kool-Aid Pickle" on Mississippi, where giant unrefrigerated jars of the brightly-colored cukes line the countertops of the finest gas stations and convenience stores of the Mississippi Delta, next to the pickled eggs and pigs' feet. For some customers, the unusual combination of sweet and sour seems as pleasantly palate confusing as dipping french fries in aFrosty from Wendy's, while others physically recoil at the thought of sugar-soaked, candy-flavored dills. 

Never ones to sleep on a trend, Walmart introduced their own version of Kool-Aid pickles, under the brand name "Tropickles," and the reaction has not been tremendously favorable. The convenience food experts at The Impulsive Buy described the shelf-stable jars of pickles as, "hideous" and "stomach-churning," explaining that, "The combination of lukewarm sugar water, wilting cucumbers and a ton of vinegar results in a scent comparable to rotten produce doused in Kool-Aid… sickly sweet odor that keeps alternating between hummingbird nectar and a compost heap."

So…yeah. That's gonna be a hard pass.

Walmart's snack food may be inexpensive, but you can still do better at the dollar store

You can still find bargains that will satisfy your snack craving without destroying your wallet at Walmart, particularly when you buy the "Great Value" store brand of crackers, chips, or cookies. But when it comes to a pure, dollar-for-dollar comparison of snacking value, you still have to stand in awe of what's happening just down the street, at your local dollar store.

Dollar stores are a snacker's paradise. Not only can you find national name brands of your favorite snacks for just a buck, but dollar stores can also be great places to find imported oddities, discontinued items, or exclusive products, such as the limited edition Top Ramen Chicken-flavored Pringles that set the Internet ablaze in 2017, and were only available at the "Dollar General" chain of discount stores.

While the temptation to spend such a paltry amount on the weird new snack obsession of your dreams may be too great to resist, make sure to check your expiration dates before you buy. Dollar stores are notorious for trying to move recently-expired products at a deep discount. Use your judgment; that bag of Cool Ranch Doritos that's a few days past the sell-by date is probably fine, while the 7-month-old mayonnaise is not.

The Great Value "Pizzadilla" is a great value…for your heart exploding

The snack and appetizer section of any frozen food section can be something of a nutritional minefield, but sometimes, you'll find a product that packs a perfect storm of fat, carbohydrates, and sodium into such a deceptively tiny package, that choosing to skip it becomes an act of self-preservation and survival.

It turns out, that when a manufacturer chooses to build a pizza out of chicken enchiladas, and then pile the whole thing on top of a "crust" made from a whole quesadilla, they're thrusting you into nothing less than an evolutionary choice. The "Carne Asada" version of this nearly two-pound slab of snack time fusion delivers a whopping 2,160 calories, which is enough for an entire day, for most people. But the Pizzadilla doesn't stop there; you'll also find 114 grams of fat, and a whopping 5,220 milligrams of sodium (about twice the total daily allowance recommended by the Center for Disease Control), hidden between its cheesy layers.

That ground beef is cheaper (and often better), when you buy it elsewhere

Sure, those rows upon rows of perfectly portioned ground beef, each calling out to you from the shelf with their vibrant, rosy strands of burger-making bliss, may be tempting. However, you're probably better off buying your ground chuck somewhere else.

According to a recent survey of standard grocery store purchases by Cheapism, a site that tracks the best bargains at supermarkets nationwide, Walmart isn't always be the least expensive — and that includes their ground beef. Cheapism found that discount grocer Aldi routinely beat Walmart's prices by at least 15%, and an independent price check by MSN revealed that Aldi typically sells ground beef for up to $1 less per pound.

Even if pricing isn't your chief concern when choosing a package of ground beef, the quality of Walmart's meat can vary wildly. Bacterial contamination continues to be a problem for packaged ground beef at Walmart; a company that supplies beef to Walmart recalled 6.5 million pounds of burger sold at Walmart and other stores as recently as 2018, due to salmonella contamination. Another recall of 90,000 pounds of beef patties in 2016 was triggered by "[contamination] with extraneous wood materials." Yeesh.

Farmers pay the price for all of that low-cost pork

As Walmart tightens its grip on about a fifth of the country's total grocery sales, someone is bound to feel the squeeze. And in the case of pork production, it's usually the farmers themselves who find their profitability shrinking even as demand for their product rises. According to Grist, between 1990 and 2009, the amount of money passed on to the farmer for every dollar's worth of pork sold fell from 45 cents to 25 cents. While post-processing facilities saw some of the revenue shifted to their operations, stores like Walmart are now taking the lion's share of profit, or 61 cents out of each dollar.

What does this mean for farmers? They must now dramatically scale up production to meet the demands of the country's largest retailer of groceries, while consistently earning less for the product they create. More work and greater financial risk, for less money? That's the game you have to play when you supply pork to Walmart.